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The Real Scandal

Why are the Benghazi killers still at large?

Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES and THOMAS JOSCELYN
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A short biography of Nasir al Wu-hayshi, the general manager of al Qaeda, shows just how dubious the administration’s concept of “core” al Qaeda really is. Wuhayshi was handpicked by Osama bin Laden to serve as his aide-de-camp and protégé years before the September 11, 2001, attacks. He fled Afghanistan after the Taliban’s fall in late 2001 and was then imprisoned for several years in his native Yemen. But Wuhayshi eventually escaped and quickly rose through al Qaeda’s ranks once again. In early 2009, he announced the creation of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—a merger of al Qaeda’s wings in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In August 2013, Zawahiri appointed Wuhayshi as al Qaeda’s global general manager—a “core” position if there ever was one. Wuhayshi is largely responsible for managing al Qaeda’s international operations. The position was previously filled by terrorists operating in Pakistan. In short, Wuhayshi is “core” al Qaeda.

Some of Wuhayshi’s men participated in the Benghazi assault. CNN first reported that several Yemenis belonging to AQAP were directly involved. The Senate Intelligence Committee has now confirmed the participation of terrorists “affiliated” with Wuhayshi’s AQAP.

A third group identified in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report is the Muhammad Jamal network. Jamal is an Egyptian who was trained by al Qaeda in the late 1980s. In the years that followed, Jamal served as a commander in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), a group headed by Ayman al Zawahiri that merged with Osama bin Laden’s joint venture prior to the 9/11 attacks. Jamal was imprisoned by Hosni Mubarak’s regime, but released in 2011 after the Arab uprisings. He quickly got back to work. Jamal established training camps in the Sinai Peninsula and eastern Libya.

Jamal was rearrested in late 2012. Egyptian authorities then discovered, on a seized computer, that Jamal had been in direct contact with Zawahiri. In his letters, Jamal reveals that he had sworn bayat (an oath of allegiance) to Zawahiri. This oath is binding and requires Jamal to follow Zawahiri’s orders. One of Jamal’s letters to Zawahiri was dated August 18, 2012—less than a month before the attack in Benghazi. (The letter summarized Jamal’s prior operations, but doesn’t discuss any upcoming plans.)

Jamal was working to establish his own official branch of al Qaeda prior to his most recent confinement. He was clearly operating as part of the al Qaeda network. Both the State Department and the United Nations have recognized in formal terrorist designations that Jamal conspired with AQAP, AQIM, and al Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan.

As was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and other press outlets, some of Jamal’s Egyptian trainees helped overrun the U.S. compound in Benghazi. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report confirms this fact.

The final group identified in the Senate report is Ansar al Sharia. Administration officials and some journalists have tried to portray Ansar al Sharia as a purely “local” group unaffiliated with al Qaeda’s global operations. This is false. According to multiple recent reports, the Ansar al Sharia chapters in Libya and Tunisia are sending fighters to al Qaeda’s branches in Syria. Leaders in both organizations are openly pro-al Qaeda, even when they deny being part of the organization. And in the recent State Department designation mentioned by Harf, the Obama administration recognized that Ansar al Sharia Tunisia is, in fact, “tied” to al Qaeda’s branches, including AQIM. Ansar al Sharia Tunisia was responsible for the ransacking of the U.S. embassy in Tunis on September 14, 2012.

The head of Ansar al Sharia in Derna, Libya, is a former Guantánamo detainee named Sufian Ben Qumu. A leaked threat assessment authored by military officials at Guantánamo identifies Ben Qumu as a longtime al Qaeda operative and “associate” of Osama bin Laden. The same file notes that Ben Qumu’s alias was discovered on the laptop of the terrorist who oversaw the finances for the 9/11 plot. The paymaster listed Ben Qumu as an al Qaeda “member receiving family support.” Ben Qumu trained in al Qaeda camps, received al Qaeda stipends, and worked with senior al Qaeda leaders.

Members of Ben Qumu’s group in Derna also took part in the Benghazi attack, according to the State Department.

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